★ The Suffragettes ★
Members of women’s organisations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries who fought for women’s suffrage
The Royal Albert Hall was the venue for some of the most memorable speeches and events in the fight for women to gain the vote.
On almost thirty different occasions between 1908 and 1913, the Hall found itself at the front line of the women’s struggle, hired by several different militant and pacifist suffrage groups, as well as the National League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage, as a location for their meetings.
“Every seat in the great Albert Hall was sold long before the day of the meeting, and hundreds of people were turned away at the doors. The vast audience was composed almost entirely of women, and there were 200 women stewards in white dresses.”
The Hall was affectionately referred to as a ‘Temple of Liberty’ by the Suffragettes, and featured as the activists’ base in a popular board game of the period.
In December 1908, Suffragette Helen Ogston disrupted a Liberal Party meeting at the Hall. When party stewards looked to mete out their usual rough treatment, she fought them off with a dog whip she had hidden in her clothes, an encounter immortalised on the front of the Illustrated London News.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, by April 1913 after the escalation of violent and destructive acts, the Trustees of the Hall (along with many venues in London) banned Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughters, and the Women’s Social and Political Union from further use of the Hall.
The militant suffragettes had become the first political group to be banned by the Hall’s trustees!
Although full suffrage didn’t come until 1928, after some women were given the vote in 1918 the Hall relaxed this ban.
On 16 March 1918 the suffragettes hired the Hall for a special Celebration of the Women Suffrage Victory meeting, where Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel both spoke.